Sunday, January 6, 2013

Hagel

I'm happy to see Obama move forward with the Chuck Hagel nomination. I've talked to some people who would rather have seen him nominate a Democrat, and I guess that would've been nice. But Hagel's substantive views on issues related to running the Defense Department seem to be more or less in line with Democratic priorities. If there's a place I'd like to see a Republican who's genuinely interested in spending cuts, it's at the head of the Defense Department. Hagel also distinguished himself as an early Republican critic of the Iraq War (though he did vote for the initial Iraq War resolution).

As far as Middle East policy goes, Hagel's controversial remarks on Israel seem basically sensible: "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here," Hagel said, but "I'm a United States senator. I'm not an Israeli senator." I guess I'd call the relevant group the "Israel lobby" (or really, the "anti-Palestinian lobby") rather than the "Jewish lobby", because many Jews don't support it and many non-Jews do, sometimes for eschatological Christian reasons. But he's right that this group an intimidating presence in DC, and his willingness to look at the US-Israel relationship in an independent way is a good thing, not a bad one. If the Hagel nomination is the fruit of Netanyahu's attempts to undermine Obama during the election, it's a sweet result indeed.

As for the thing where Hagel criticized a Clinton ambassadorial nominee for being "openly, aggressively gay", my hope and expectation is that he's moved forward from his old prejudices. He says he has, and the HRC accepts it. I'm hoping he gets thoroughly examined on these issues in his confirmation hearings and thoughtfully repudiates his past views.

In new Senator news, I'm happy to see Heidi Heitkamp weighing in on the right side: Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, said the way Hagel had been targeted was not fair. "He hasn't had a chance to speak for himself," she said on ABC's "This Week. "Why all the pre-judging, I don't know." I'm optimistic that despite being a red-state Democrat, she'll help progressives when she can rather than being another Ben Nelson.

[Update]: If you want to read Dave Weigel making a lot of similar points, you can!
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